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Reviews/Theatre

A theatrical road trip

29 November 2018

Review: The Last Great Hunt, Stay with Us ·
Riverview Hotel, 28 November ·
Review by Robert Housley ·

Just as its marketing grab suggests, Stay with Us – the latest offering from local theatre collective The Last Great Hunt – is “an immersive theatrical journey through a hotel”. More specifically, the theatrical road trip ventures through three rooms on the third floor of Riverview Hotel, a hop, skip and jump from Kings Park near the base of precipitous Mount Street.

“A hotel is a place of journey,” posits director/co-creator Arielle Gray. “We are exploring that idea on a grand scale through small theatrical moments in the intimacy of hotel rooms.” This unusual setting, then, is not a rejection of main stage production, but rather a more inclusive way for an audience to engage with live performance. Hats off to the Riverview Hotel for its willingness to accommodate the experience – its third such relationship with a local performing arts company.

Audience proximity to the experience is both spatial and actual. Only 10 people are permitted to attend each of the six nightly shows. And they all have a part to play in each room as the distinct but interwoven narratives unfold.

Two people in a hotel room can feel crowded, but up to 12 (including the concierge/guide – co-creator/performer Tim Watts for our group – plus a performer) could feel claustrophobic. But it doesn’t. And the “actual” involvement of the audience is limited to donning a costume, handling some props and switching on/off electrical items. Nothing to scare away a reluctant participant.

The show features co-creators/performers Chris Isaacs, Gita Bezard and Watts along with guest theatre makers Jo Morris, Zachary Sheridan and Clare Testoni.

One of the most alluring aspects of the work is the anticipation, the not knowing what to expect from one room to the next.

four people lying on hotel beds, in dressing gowns, holding teddies and watching projections of a galaxy on the ceiling
Its themes are expansive: life, death, the infinity of the universe… Photo: Daniel James Grant.

Its themes are expansive: life, death, the infinity of the universe, the human experience on earth, adventure, twins and “a world that lies between the physical and spiritual”. Each leg of the journey is foreshadowed on the landing outside, when the concierge/guide shares abstract musings about time, space and our microscopic significance in the scheme of things.

In room one is a woman (Morris) in mourning, seemingly fresh from the funeral of a female astronaut, evidently her twin.

In room two are the desiccated, life-size remains of an elderly woman (a stylised dummy made by Tarryn Gill) whose insides harbour not just her vital organs but a plethora of mementoes from her life.

In room three Testoni directs the group to lie down on a long line of adjoining beds, each with a teddy bear, a night gown and a pillow. Shoulder to shoulder we watch a wondrous display of mostly live whiteboard marker animation (Testoni’s handiwork) unfold on the ceiling above.

Reflecting on the connections between each of the stories, post-performance, there is a sense of having seen three shows in one, such are their differences.

One of the benefits of this site-specific show was sharing it with the same few people. It heightened the intimacy of its “small theatrical moments” without lessening its universal ambitions.

Stay with Us is performed until 8 December.

Top photo by Daniel James Grant.

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Author —
Robert Housley

Robert Housley returns to arts journalism following a 20-year hiatus managing performing arts venues. He was the last arts editor of Perth’s Daily News and has worked as a journalist in London, Cape Town and Amsterdam. Robert’s favourite item of playground equipment is the swing and its enduring challenge: how high can you go?

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